the power of seo

Everyone wants to sell you search engine optimization (SEO) as a service.  I’m sure there’s good money in doing that but I’ve never paid anyone for this since it’s easy enough to do yourself.  The higher you are in a Google search result, the more likely that you’ll be seen.  And the more likely you’re seen, the more likely your blog will be read.

“Roll Your Own” SEO

Believe it or not, one of my most popular blog posts of all time is “why PowerShell sucks so badly”, enjoying 743 views so far (mostly from searches in Google).  Viewing this graph, clearly something changed between Jul & Aug of 2016.

powershell-sucks

The views for this blog post were all 100% organic (unaffected by anyone’s attempts to manipulate search engine placement) before August 2016.  If you typed in “powershell sucks” into Google before this time you would have had to search page after page within their results to find any mention of my blog.

August 2016

Somewhere during that month, I noticed the popularity of this particular blog post and wanted to do an experiment.  Up until this point there might have been a total of 50 views, making it one of my most popular posts at the time.

Daily, for about a week, I visited Google and typed in “powershell sucks”, then walked through the pages of results until I found the link to my own post.  I then clicked the link and parked that browser.  (It’s important to just appear as if you’re actually reading the content because Google’s JavaScript is tracking your behavior.)

It’s only necessary to do this once per day, to be honest.  It doesn’t take much to make an otherwise-obscure blog post gain in popularity in the “eyes” of Google’s search engine.

I repeated this behavior until the blog post was listed in the top five entries of the first page of results and then let nature take its course.

The Result

Of course, the Internet loves to complain.  From this point on, the Internet-at-large would then see the blurb in Google’s search results and offer to them the promise of a rant by some distant blogger (Yours Truly).  They clicked the link, landed on the page and were instantly rewarded by a smarmy commentary on my frustrations with PowerShell.

Once this “pump” was primed by my own efforts, it was unnecessary to do anything other than to continue to write content.  Well, at least, I write content which I myself would be interested in reading.

Have I learned anything from all this?  The Internet appears to love a post whose title resonates with something they’re feeling at the moment.  For comparitive purposes, I demonstrate that “too much fun” received three views and “windows 10 sucks balls” has about 120 so far.

Do you change your blogging style to accommodate the prevailing mood of the Internet?  I wouldn’t suggest that.  Just write.  Try to find something interesting and say what you need to say.

windows-10-sucks

too-much-fun

captcha the moment

Robots

According to Newton’s 3rd law of motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Out on the Internet that probably means that when forum content spammers apply force (adding content advertisements in order to enhance someone’s SEO) then forum admins must use an equal force to repel them. In this particular case, we’re talking about that captcha challenge that you keep seeing everywhere: prove that you’re not a robot.

recaptcha

Part of the problem is that the assumption here is that we are a robot and that we must prove otherwise to proceed. And I suppose that to some extent, Google is part of the underlying problem.

Search Engine Optimization

SEO is the acronym for what’s behind all this. Google, for example, can be faked into thinking that a particular website is more important than it should be.  Spammers have figured this out of course. Every day of the year, people are being paid to create fake content across the Internet’s collection of forums, blogs, websites, etc.

Behind-the-scenes, websites and forums are being visited nightly by a virtual army of Google’s webcrawlers, those robots which visit all the pages of a website and re-add them into the big indexed database which is the brain of Google, if you will.

The problem, though, is the collection of odd configuration settings and files for which most people have no knowledge. A typical website would have a /robots.txt to tell webcrawlers what files to add to the collection; the webmaster could simply not index this area of the website. A really awesome forum or blog software would know to automatically decorate the visitor-supplied links added in comments with a no-follow argument. What this means is that these spammers/advertisers would be foiled almost overnight since they wouldn’t get any value from this behavior.

But since nobody spends much time thinking about a real fix, most of us—the forum and blog users—are forced to prove our humanity on a daily basis. We are inconvenienced in many ways.

Fast Typist = Spammer

This detection method really annoys me. Back in the ’70s I typed 115 WPM on an Underwood typewriter. Now imagine how fast I type now on a computer keyboard with almost forty years’ of experience.

Underwood

Add to that, my brain works well. I can process problems and develop solutions in a hurry and will on many occasions attempt to provide assistance to others on the Internet, say, on a forum. Unfortunately, I’m often confronted with these anti-spam countermeasures which seemingly think: if you can type more than two posts in five minutes you therefore must be a robot. Seriously, I hate that one.

Denial-of-Service to Everyone

This is the reason behind today’s post. I was out there attempting to ask a question on the Sainsmart forum and after trying multiple browsers realized that I simply wasn’t going to get to ask that question. Their registration mechanism’s captcha doesn’t work. It fails over and over again since their code is wrong. It’s a denial-of-service (DoS) to everyone, robots and humans alike.

More Than One Lookup = Spammer

I tend to use the WHOIS database information a lot since I work in Information Technology. Each domain registrar (like GoDaddy) maintains a database like this of who has registered a particular domain. And yet, I’m sure there are people who create scripts to promiscuously query this information in order to build and sell marketing lists. I would urge people who maintain websites not to be so heavy-handed at robot-detection methods. (In other words, looking up two domains does not a robot make.)

Typical Customer Reaction

In my particular case with respect to Sainsmart’s forum DoS, it feels like Newton’s 2nd law of motion: the acceleration of the customer away from their forum is directly proportional to the force of rejection by their failing captcha mechanism. Okay, even for me that was stretching things a bit but I did want to add another Newton reference so there you go. Seriously, it will take a lot for me to go back to Sainsmart’s forum again. (See, that was a Newton’s 1st law of motion joke. You knew I was a geek, right?)

the inattentive blogger

I thought I’d see just how many bloggers pay little attention to their comments before first approving them. So I searched for a phrase which I saw in my own spam-marked comments and it surprised me how many people are falling for this.  There are at least 35 thousand blogs out there with this single instance of blog-spam.

Google: “My family every time say that I am wasting my time here at net”

MyFamilyEveryTimeSay

In some cases, like the Health and Wellness site that shows up as the first result in Google, it doesn’t result in anything harmful in this case because there is no link-back to the spam destination. It’s a seemingly-useful and yet bland/generic comment which has nothing to do with the blog post where it’s found. Note that it’s followed by another blog-spam attempt a minute later, likely the very same spammer.

NoLinkback

And in many cases, it does result in a harmful link within their blog comments. Working links like this result in promoting a particular website destination within, say, Google’s SEO.

Linkback

If you Google that exact phrase then the culprit who’s truly behind all this blog-spamming is likely one of these companies:  Google: “free online car insurance quotes”.

Specifically, it was this one…

https://www.freewebstore.org/carinsuranceminimizer

…which appears to have come under the scrutiny of the freewebstore.org’s Abuse department and they’ve been taken offline.

NoSoupForYou

Fortunately now, there’s no “there” there. Although tens of thousands of these dead links now litter the blogspace, no one is reaping the benefit. Given that someone just posted this same comment to my own blog (flagged as spam), I must assume that the spammer is possibly still getting paid to do so.

It’s like there’s a battle going on at all times on the interweb and it’s marketing versus I.T. most of the time. Only now, bloggers get to be the I.T. person just to maintain the status quo.